Strike: Why FG rejected report of Briggs Committee — Presidency source

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Fresh indication emerged yesterday that the Federal Government may have rejected the Nimi-Briggs Committee report, following the alleged allocation of a pay rise of 180 percent to university teaching staff, while the non-teaching staff were given only 10 percent.

The Federal Government had set up the Briggs-led committee to renegotiate the 2009 Agreement between the government and the university-based unions, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT.

FG rejected report of Briggs C'ttee

Recall that public universities in the country have been shut down since February 14 over some contentious issues, including the renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement, and disagreement on the salary payment platform, among others.

But sources at the Ministry of Finance accused the Briggs Committee of connivance with ASUU in proposing an impracticable increase in the university wage structure where a Professor is to earn N2 million a month.

The sources close to the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages alleged that though Prof. Briggs is the Pro-chancellor of the Federal University, Lokoja, he still teaches at the University of Port Harcourt, hence the alleged conspiracy to make a pay rise of about 180 percent for teaching staff, while the non-teaching staff were given a paltry pay rise.

Besides, the source claimed that ASUU, in collaboration with the committee, excluded the relevant advisory Ministries, Departments, and Agencies, MDAs, that were key to the negotiation.

The relevant MDAs excluded, according to multiple sources, are the Ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, Budget Office of the Federation, Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission from the sittings of the committee.

“These are critical MDAs that manage the finances of the Federal Government, Receipts and expenditures as well as administering the public service of the federation were excluded.

“Their exclusion from the sittings of Prof. Nimi Briggs easily explains its non-inclusive and one-sided proposal, recommending sky-high, impracticable figures in salaries and allowances that are clearly beyond the capacity of the Federal Government.

“How can you discuss the service condition of a section of the public service of the federation without the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation or salaries and wage structure without contributions from the Minister of Finance, Budget Office or National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission?

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”This is an anomaly. And how could the Briggs Committee skate over such a grave issue?” the source queried.

According to findings by our reporter, the Briggs Committee proposed that a professor should earn N19.5 million per annum and when other allowances are added, will scale up to N23 million per annum, making it about N2 million monthly.

The allowances include post-graduate supervision allowance, teaching allowance, field trip allowance, responsibility, and Postgraduate supervision allowance, hazard allowance, examination/timekeeper allowance, teaching practice/industrial supervision allowance.

Others include honoraria for postgraduate thesis(oral exam) honoraria for external modulation programme for undergraduate/post-graduate students, allowance for external assessment of readers/professors as well as allowance for the postgraduate study grant, besides other fringe benefits.

One of the sources said the government side in the negotiation – the Presidential Committee on Salaries –  has decided to take a holistic, all-encompassing, and integrated review of the salaries and allowances of the entire educational sector, comprising universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education.

Consequently, the committee has been mandated to go back to the drawing board to produce a reasonable, practicable wage increase, which will reflect the relativity of every worker in the educational sector – academic and non-academic.

This, the source explained, was to avoid a situation where the government would solve a problem from one section of the education system and inadvertently open conflagration from a different flank.

It said this was due to the request for the increase of salaries of polytechnics staff as well as that of health workers- doctors and JOHESU members who were still waiting for the response of the Federal Government.

Another source told our correspondent that the government was amenable to a general wage review and intended to achieve it in a manner that promotes the best interest and overall progress of all sectors of the nation’s workforce.

It, however, regretted that while doctors and Joint Health workers as well as staff of polytechnics, whose requests for a wage increase were pending before the government, they had shown patriotism, staying in their duty posts.

According to the source, the Minister of Finance explained that paying the N1.1 trillion ASUU was asking its members alone was not doable, even if the Federal Government decides to collapse a big chunk of its capital vote.

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Urging ASUU to return to work while the Federal Government sorts this tricky wage increase in a manner that does not unsettle relativity and general wage equilibrium in the federal public service is not possible, the source said:  “ASUU made the committee work without government officials from the Ministry of Finance, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Income, and Wages Commission, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation and Ministry of Labour and Employment.

“These government organs are to provide advice to the committee, while the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission, NUC, are the direct employers.

“The Ministry of Finance and the Budget Office of the Federation are supposed to advise the committee on financial and fiscal solutions for revenue of the agreement in order to know the quantum of a pay rise.

“While the National Salaries, Income, and Wages Commission will work out the template for salaries and allowance increase in order that relativity will be maintained between lecturers and other staff members, this was not done because they drove those officials away, including the Ministry of Labour, that will advise and the Office of the Head of Service.

“Briggs, who is a serving Professor, even though he is a Pro-Chancellor of a university with ASUU, fixed humongous salary of about 180 percent rise for ASUU members and gave 10 percent to SSANU, NASU, and NAAT.”

One of the sources accused ASUU of using threats to achieve whatever benefits it wanted, saying “ASUU is threatening the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy with revocation of his professorship, the Director General of NITDA is being threatened for revocation of his Bachelor’s degree.

“Going by what ASUU and the Briggs Committee did, it will fix the salary of a Professor to N20 million annually and if you add the allowances, it will land them N2 million per month, some senior lecturers will collect N1.5 million per month, while other senior non-teaching staff will get about N500 thousand.

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”The Vice Chancellors who are professors will get N1.1 million which is far below a Professor that is teaching.  These are the complications.”

Recall that the Nimi-Briggs Report was submitted a month ago and the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education was said to have passed it on.

Reacting to the impasse between the government and ASUU yesterday, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, said:  ”It is public knowledge that the Federal Government inaugurated the Renegotiation Committee headed by  Professor Munzali Jubrin in December 2020.

”The Committee was saddled with the sole responsibility of addressing the demand of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) pertaining to the task of revamping all federal universities in the country.

”After extensive consultations with all the relevant stakeholders, the Committee completed the national assignment and submitted a comprehensive report to the Federal Government in May 2021. Regrettably, the Agreement was not signed by the Federal Government 9 months after the submission of the said report, hence, ASUU embarked on the current industrial action.

”However, the industrial action has been allowed to drag on for almost five months due to the dissatisfaction of the Federal Government with certain aspects of the report of the  Jibrin Renegotiate Committee.

”But from the information at our disposal, the Federal Government has not authorized the Minister to reject the agreement and subject ASUU to a campaign of calumny.“

‘The implication of rejecting the report of the Briggs Renegotiated Committee is that the ASUU strike will continue indefinitely. But President Muhammadu Buhari has recently expressed concern over the strike and called on ASUU to call it off, saying ‘enough is enough’.

”Based on our consultation with the leadership of ASUU, we have confirmed that the entire members of ASUU are fully prepared to call off the strike as soon as the FG/ASUU Renegotiated Agreement is executed by the Federal Government.

”In the circumstance, we are compelled to call on President Buhari to end the industrial action by directing the Minister of Education, Mr. Adamu Adamu, to execute the Renegotiated Agreement. The Agreement should be executed as soon as possible in the public interest.

©Vanguard News

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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